European Union Remains ‘Committed’ To Opening Borders to 75 Million Turkish Citizens as ‘Soon as Possible’

The European Union (EU) remains “committed to” giving, and is in the later stages of securing, Turkish citizens visa-free travel in the bloc, as well as handing an extra three billion euros to migrants in the nation by next year, a commissioner has said.

The EU’s Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos explained that all elements of the migrant deal with Turkey were moving ahead, after Turkey agreed to stem the tide of Middle Eastern migrants in return for billions in aid and the opening Europe’s borders to Turks.

He made the comments to Turkish paper Hurriyet ahead of a visit to the nation. In a Turkish language version, he is quoted, according to a rough translation, as saying the deal in its “last level”.

Pressed on when he expects progress on visa-free travel, in the English version of the interview, Mr. Avramopoulos stressed that Ankara must “meet the remaining benchmarks”, including revisions to Turkey’s authoritarian anti-terror law.

“The EU is committed to fulfilling all elements of the EU-Turkey migration deal, including visa liberalization, and the bloc continues to encourage Turkey’s efforts to complete the delivery of all the outstanding benchmarks of the Visa Liberalization Roadmap as soon as possible,” he said.

Adding: “At this point in time, all parties must avoid whatever could undermine our cooperation and focus on mutual interests.”

“The challenges of migration are common. I want to praise Turkey once again for fulfilling its humanitarian duty, and the EU fully supports Turkey in that endeavour,” he also commented.

Since March last year, 2,032 migrants have been returned from Greece to Turkey under the deal, whilst more than 11,400 migrants have been resettled in the EU from Turkey so far, Mr. Avramopoulos also explained.

He said that many times more migrants would be brought to Europe, continuing: “On September 27th, I called on EU Member States to resettle a further 50,000 persons from Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and countries along the Central Mediterranean route over the next two years.

“I have already received more than 38,000 pledges from 18 countries and I know that more will follow soon,” he stated.

Mr. Avramopoulos also said that almost three billion euros has been sent to migrants in Turkey as part of the deal, and he claimed an additional three billion-euro fund is expected to be set up soon.

“We remain committed to the EU-Turkey [deal], which clearly stipulates that once the existing resources are used to the full, and provided commitments have been met then the EU will mobilize additional funding,” he said, pointing to further discussions among EU members for additional funds by 2019.

“Good progress is being made and all funds should be contracted by the end of this year. We will soon decide on the next steps, after discussing with Member States on further funding,” he added.

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